Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd released information about the murders of four people Sunday morning in unincorporated Lakeland, Florida, where a gunman wearing body armor went on a shooting rampage.
In a “bizarre occurrence,” four people were killed, including a baby, during a “shooting rampage” in Lakeland early Sunday morning, according to Judd, who said the suspect shot at two different homes along North Socrum Loop Road, killing four and injuring an 11-year-old girl.
The girl, who was shot multiple times, was being treated at Tampa General, according to authorities. She’s expected to survive.
The suspect, who also shot the family’s dog, was identified as 33-year-old Bryan Riley, who was arrested Sunday morning, and was so aggressive that he tried to wrestle a gun from police as he lay on his hospital gurney.
Judd said violent crime is a rare occurrence in the area: “this is God’s country. Our crime rate in this county is at a 49 year low. you’ve never been as safe as you are right now, but when you get a nut job like this statistical data makes no difference. This guy was wired up on dope and meth.”
Judd says the crime scene and investigation is just beginning and will take days.
He said Riley, of Brandon, appeared Monday morning in court, where a judge ordered him held without bond. Riley asked for his own lawyer and will be assigned a public defender until he gets one.
The sheriff’s office says Riley claimed he was on meth and that he was a survivalist when he was taken into custody. Judd says Riley’s girlfriend and family also say he was an honorably-discharged Marine who suffered from PTSD and in the last week or so believed he could talk to God.
However, Grady said Riley was very in tune with his statements and admission, “playing word games,” and at one point told deputies the victims begged for their lives and he killed them anyway.
Judd said the man was “a rabid animal”, and the crime scene was easily one of the worst he had ever seen.
“This man is evil in the flesh,” Judd said.
Polk County is located in central Florida, about 65 miles south of Orlando.
The sheriff’s office received multiple 911 calls about an active shooter around 4:30 a.m.
Sheriff deputies, Lakeland Police, SWAT, and other agencies responded to the area near Fulton Greed Road in unincorporated Polk County.
According to the report, “deputies came under attack when they arrived near a residence.” They also heard a woman screaming.
Sheriff Judd said 100 rounds were fired between Riley and deputies, who they said was in camp and a bulletproof vest. The suspect was shot once, but no law enforcement officers were injured.
Eventually deputies were able to get into the house, and that’s where they found the injured 11-year-old girl, who told deputies there were three others in the house.
Riley, a former Marine who served as a sharpshooter in both Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to have targeted his victims at random and appeared to be suffering from mental health issues. Judd said Riley’s girlfriend told authorities the gunman had been slowly unraveling for weeks, repeatedly telling her that he could communicate directly with God.
“They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway,” Judd said Riley told them during an interrogation.